Having already ticked off many of the ‘touristy’ activities during my first visit to Bangkok, on my second trip to the Thai capital I set out to find some of the alternative activities that the city has to offer.
One such activity that I came across was the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, often referred to as Bangkok snake farm and museum, where research is carried out and snake venom is extracted from live snakes for use in anti-venom and vaccines. Despite my huge fear of snakes I decided to take a visit.
As this is primarily a research and anti-venom production centre, the animals are treated with care and respect here by trained professionals. A stark contrast to other tourist attractions involving snakes in the region where this is often not the case.
The idea for the centre dates back to early 1900’s when HRH Prince Paribatra Sukhumband held a fundraising event and convinced his siblings (all of whom were born in 1881 – the year of the snake) to donate. The current building, the Simaseng Building (Four Snakes Building) was only opened in 2008 after the previous building by the same name fell in to disrepair.
The museum is the 2nd oldest of it’s type in the world and is now managed by the Thai Red Cross society.
The outdoor exhibition at the Bangkok snake farm features a number of tropical snakes including a huge King Cobra.
Indoor is a further 35 species of snake that are used in venom production. Often snakes have their venom glands removed when near tourists but here all of the snakes remain venomous which adds a slightly more terrifying element knowing that one bite could kill you.
Upstairs is a museum and exhibition with information about the evolution of snakes, their anatomy and life cycle, reproduction, toxicology and how to deal with snake bites. On display here were snake skeletons and skin samples.
The centre itself is really interesting to look around but the best part is the daily demonstrations. On weekdays at 11 am you can see a venom extraction show, conducted in a small auditorium behind a glass panel, experts extract venom from a few varieties of snakes.
At 2.30 pm on weekdays and 11 am on weekends and holidays, visit the outdoor stage to witness the snake handling show featuring a Siamese Cobra and a Viper. There are also some non-venomous snakes for visitors who want to get a little closer.
Here are a few of the interesting facts I learnt about snakes during my visit to Bangkok’s Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute:
- Some species of snake can reproduce without having to mate – the Brahminy Blind Snake doesn’t need male partners as it can reproduce asexually.
- Some of the enzymes in snake venom could be used to help treat other disease such as cardiovascular disease
- The longest venomous snake in the world was a King Cobra found in Thailand, measuring 5.6 meters in length.
Admission to the Queen Saovabha Institute Snake Farm is 200 baht for adults and 50 baht for children. The ticket allows re-entry on the same day if you wish to return for one of the demonstrations.
The snake farms’s venom extraction demonstration is at 11 am on weekdays, the snake handling show is at 2.30 pm on weekdays and 11 am on weekends and holidays.
The Queen Saovabha Institute Snake Farm is open 9.30 am – 2.30 pm on weekdays and 9.30 am – 1.00 pm on weekends and holidays.